With the sentiment of the late Aretha Franklin and her famous song lyric, I extend R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the cast and crew of the Timber Lake Playhouse for delivering a most entertaining production of Larry Gallagher’s Beehive: The '60s Musical. The show's six posed, and composed, young actresses grabbed your attention from the start of Saturday's matinée performance, with each diva poised upon their platforms ready to explode with talent from the opening scene.

Dead Man's Cell Phone

“When something rings, you have to answer it. Don't you?” pleads Jean (Jessica Taylor), the mousy, bespectacled protagonist of the QC Theatre Workshop's wildly imaginative production of Dead Man's Cell Phone. This Sarah Ruhl play serves as a commentary on how modern technology both isolates us and connects us. Or at least, that's what Wikipedia would like us to believe … .

Soaring with melodies from another galaxy, the Timber Lake Playhouse's Forever Plaid is energetic, light-hearted, and funny in its nostalgic revue of 1950s close-harmony guy groups. Saturday's matinée performance of this outstanding production – directed and choreographed by Gregory Daniels, with the original musical arrangements by James Raitt – just kept getting more entertaining as the show went on.

“Welcome to the Hotel California,” crooned the Eagles as the lights dimmed on Thursday's opening-night performance of California Suite at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre. It was the perfect – and, let’s be honest, most obvious – song choice for this straightforward production of Neil Simon’s comedy.

Every once in a while, you see a show in which all the pieces click and it becomes greater than the sum of its parts. In the case of Next to Normal, currently running at the Black Box Theatre, the intimacy of the venue was reflected in the intimacy of the material, and as such, director Kyle Schneider’s dark musical was extremely moving.

We all know that dying is a part of life, but most of us don’t like to think about it. Being a cancer survivor myself, I know all too well what it's like to face death, and whether you're young or old, death does not discriminate. So when I went to see Saturday night's Tuesdays with Morrie – playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of Mitch Albom's bestselling memoir – at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, I knew, based on its subject matter, that I was in for an emotional roller-coaster ride that would once again make me face the reality of my mortality.

These days, one could rent just about anything when producing a theatrical production. Need a backdrop? Rent. Costumes? Rent. Props? Rent. Wigs? Rent. Lighting? Rent. The entire set? Rent. You can even rent the whole orchestra by licensing the use of a pre-recorded soundtrack. And there's nothing wrong with taking the rental path. I mean, why reinvent the wheel?! But that's why Quad City Music Guild’s latest – and determinedly non-rented – production of Shrek: The Musical is so ogre-ly impressive.

When you see a show and your biggest “complaint” was that the wine was too purple, you know you’ve seen something special. The Mississippi Bend Players have brought their A-game to the stage with the world premiere of Beginner’s Luck, a comedy that's not afraid to ask the big question “What do you want from life?” and manages to be completely satisfying without actually delivering a resolution.

“Mazel tov!” to the Timber Lake Playhouse and its cast of Fiddler on the Roof for eloquently executing this enduring musical with great passion and precision. The full company of performers, directed by William Hayes, delivered a terrifically entertaining production filled with traditional Jewish-dance numbers that were very well done, and I found myself fully engaged during Saturday's matinée performance – not only with the original Broadway choreography reproduced by Jessica Chen, but with each characters’ precarious plight.

Saturday night's performance of Thesmophoriazusae was a bit like the talent show at the end of summer camp. Featuring a lot of inside jokes, jabs at society as a whole, and many familiar faces, director Bob Hanske’s production serves as the wacky capstone to Genesius Guild’s summer of entertainment in Lincoln Park.

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